Sex and contraception

In her latest entry Josephine explains Roman Catholic thinking on sex and contraception

For most of history, few women had the chance of studying and using their education in the public sphere. In fact, for most of history, very few men had the chance of studying either. In the Western world, and elsewhere, women have the same opportunities as men. Without such opportunities, I would not be writing this now!

Yet women and men, feel the overwhelming importance of committed love and the children that are the product of this love. Totalitarian and secular governments often seek to treat women in the work-force as if they were men and as if their inherent value lay in the world of paid employment. They down-grade the importance of marriage, which is the gift of one man to one woman and one woman to one man. When you present a gift to someone, you cannot take it back! Therefore the Catholic Church defends marriage and underlines the equality of woman and man in that state.

Sex, in Christian understanding, is for ‘bonding and babies,’ just as food is for nourishment and sleep is for rest.

Because one cannot take back the gift of self that one has given to husband or wife in marrying, the Catholic Church holds that marriage cannot be dissolved. This teaching goes back to that of Christ in the gospel of Matthew, when he said that a man who ‘divorces his wife … and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’ (Mt.19) and in Mark, Ch 10, Jesus adds ‘And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she is guilty of adultery too.’

It is becoming increasingly evident that marriage provides the stability that human beings crave, whether adults or children but especially the latter. Emotional security is so important to children that it needs to include both parents, though many single parents are heroically successful in bringing up their children. Separation because of cruelty of one sort or another is a different matter.

‘AGAINST CONTRACEPTION? CAN YOU BE SERIOUS?

Because marriage is the place for active sexual love, marriage is the place for the gift of self to the other. Barriers are out of place. Contraceptives are essentially barriers between the self-giving of the two. That does not mean that the couple cannot decide the number of their children they would like to have, on the basis of their health, their energy, and their finances. The woman’s body has indicators that show the few hours in each cycle when she can conceive and she and her husband can choose to abstain from sex for about seven days in each month. Not easy, perhaps, but better than condoms, which, however perfect in the factory, can tear and slip in use. Better than the pill, which can produce many and varied unwanted side effects. Because of failures and difficulties with contraceptives, abortions become an acceptable back-up – abortions take female life in the womb (as well as male). With goodwill, natural fertility management, on the other hand, brings the couple closer together, each having the same responsibility for their family.

In February this year, the FPA, formerly the Family Planning Association, an organisation not known for sympathetic understanding of Roman Catholic teaching, published a report which found that natural family planning is as effective as the contraceptive pill, long seen as the benchmark of fertility control. (Daily Telegraph 21.2.07)

The condom is considered to have a failure rate in practice of about 15%. In the case of AIDS infection, that would equate to a terrible risk.